The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Huron-Clinton Metroparks Announce Partnership    

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Huron-Clinton Metroparks announced recently that a multi-year, pilot partnership that focuses on widening access to new programs and recreation for city and suburban families, to use the world-class parks, greenways, and public spaces managed by the two organizations, according to a press release.

Through the partnership, Metroparks will create a physical presence in Detroit and contribute $6 million over seven years to the Conservancy for larger programs and operations at the future Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park on the West Riverfront, the release added.

Yesterday afternoon, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks Board of Commissioners approved the partnership agreement, which will begin immediately with two years of combined robust programming and joint outreach efforts leading up to the opening of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park along the Detroit Riverfront, which is on tap for 2023, the release added. When the park is open, the agreement includes another five years of partnership that builds off the strengths of each organization, the release added.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to expand our collaboration with such a great organization like the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, build more relationships within the city and with all those who call it home, and have the opportunity to contribute in one small way to the dynamic energy and spirit that are the essence of Detroit,” said Amy McMillan, director of Huron-Clinton Metroparks. “This partnership will allow us to build upon our commitment of providing exceptional recreation and educational opportunities and better, more equitably serve the city, its neighborhoods and surrounding communities, all while complementing the world-class ring of 13 regional parks in southeast Michigan.”

“We are excited by the opportunities of growing our partnership with Huron-Clinton Metroparks,” said Mark Wallace, president, and CEO, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “The ecosystem of parks and public space becomes stronger when we work together in partnerships like this one. We can do more and serve more people by embracing a truly regional perspective and leveraging our shared commitment to equity and diversity in recreation.”

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park is described as a significant project on the horizon for the Conservancy and a big leap forward in completing its goal of developing 5.5 miles of revitalized riverfront, the release noted. It will majorly change the landscape along the downtown riverfront, and it is expected to “significantly boost” economic benefit in the area also, the release stated. The 22-acre park will feature a water component, Sport House with basketball courts, the Delta Dental Play Garden with several animal structures for kids to climb in and around, and a large lawn that will be used for special events and programming, according to the release.

The organizations first began collaborating in 2015 with programs at special events along the riverfront that educated thousands of Detroiters on wildlife and the outdoors, according to the release. Teams for each organization are working to finalize details on future programs starting as early as 2021, according to the release. One of the most ambitious goals is to develop a swimming program to teach Detroiters how to swim. Currently, 70 percent of Detroit children do not know how to swim.

Metroparks and the Conservancy are reporting huge increases in visitors during 2020. The Detroit Riverfront attracts 3.5 million visitors annually and has remained open every day during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the release. Since March, the use of the Detroit Riverwalk has increased by 20 percent and Dequindre Cut usage has increased by 40 percent. During the first decade of the riverfront revitalization project, more than $1 billion in public and private investment has occurred. To date, the Conservancy has invested more than $169 million in the revitalization of the Detroit Riverfront, according to the release.

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